Don’t Let Loneliness Kill You

Strong relationships are crucial to living a happy and healthy life. But loneliness and social isolation are growing problems that have grim emotional, mental and physical consequences.

Nearly one-third of Americans over the age of 65 now lives alone, and half of those over 85 live on their own; and 40 percent of adults now say they are lonely, which is up from 20 percent in the 1980s. Research continues to show that loneliness and social isolation can influence sleep quality, overall health and impaired cognitive performance, and has been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, depressive symptoms and mortality. Moreover, isolation reduces immune function and contributes to inflammation, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.

Individuals in poor health–especially those with disorders like anxiety–are more likely to withdraw from friends or family and are more likely to feel lonely.

When someone becomes ill a debilitating sequence of events can occur; a decline in energy accompanies the illness. This fatigue affects mobility and motivation to leave the house. Eventually, this can lead to total social isolation and eventually diminished self-worth and purpose.

Overcoming Isolation

Maintaining a rich and rewarding social life as you age is possible. Technology and social media is both a blessing and curse when it comes to forging new friendships and staying connected. It can help you keep in touch with family and friends that live far away, but it cannot replace face-to-face interactions and “old fashioned” friendships.

When faced with feelings of loneliness, it is important to acknowledge your feelings and realize that you are not really alone—everyone deserves friendship and love. When making new connections, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first but the more you get out there, the easier it becomes.

The best way to find a community that will provide support, friendship and help you fulfill your purpose is to follow your interests and hobbies. Whether it’s golfing, dancing, reading, arts and crafts, chess or maybe you want to learn something new, there is a group waiting to welcome you! Great places to meet new people and find local clubs include your church or place of worship and community recreation centers. Most offer events and classes for a wide range of interests, ages and skill levels.

Maintaining healthy relationships throughout your life keeps you strong, as well. All humans have an inherent desire for closeness, and it is an essential part of our development. Next time you have the opportunity to go out with a friend, attend an event in your neighborhood or even strike up a conversation with a stranger, take it! Your body and mind will thank you for it.

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